Quite often, NFL scouts are wrong.
They have a challenging job. A job that requires them to predict the future success of collegiate athletes for teams prepared to spend millions.
They attend everything from the scouting combine to pro days and private workout sessions, charting every move a prospect makes, hoping to deliver an accurate grade to their respective war rooms.
It’s widely understood that there will be inexplicable busts each year. That just comes with the territory of being a scout.
But you’d assume all the proper research is done to ensure teams make the best pick possible.
You’d assume they know everything there is to know about each player they scout.
Well, that’s not always the case.
Yesterday, Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had a story that provided unnamed scouts’ takes on various players from Wisconsin high schools or colleges, leading up to the draft.
For the most part, the scouts’ insights made sense. Their evaluations of the former Badgers were in line with what we saw here at UW throughout the past couple seasons.
But then I got to Bill Nagy and Scott Tolzien.
Both players are expected to be late picks or free agent signees. For them, each scout’s view is critical as they try to get one team to take a chance on them towards the end of the draft. Most coaches and general managers aren’t spending a lot of time studying film of Nagy and Tolzien — it’s the scouts who get paid to find those late-round contributors.
But sometimes these scouts’ logic makes you scratch your head.
We’ll start with Nagy. Here’s what one scout told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
“There’s just no reason why he can’t come to an NFL team and be a center-guard for at minimum four years, Every time he went into a game he played well. Between that kid and that coach there’s something going on. They don’t talk him up. They don’t seem to think he’s much of a prospect, but the tape to me shows different. I don’t get why he didn’t start at center or guard.”
Lets break this down.
The scout spoke highly of Nagy, noting his ability to come into games when needed and perform at a high level.
Then the scout hints there may have been a player-coach dispute, which explains why Nagy wasn’t named a starter.
That’s news to me. That’s news to anyone who covered the Wisconsin football team this past year.
Nagy was the odd-man-out for the deepest offensive line in the country. He had a shot to win a starting job at right guard heading into the season but lost out to Kevin Zeitler — one of the top interior lineman in the Big Ten. And as for the center position? Some scouts say Peter Konz was the best O-lineman the Badgers had last season (including Carimi and Moffitt). Nagy wasn’t slighted. He played behind some of the best lineman in college football.
What’s worse is the other part of the scouts’ take could be interpreted as one of those “character issues” we always hear about come draft day. What did he do to lose favor with the staff? Why does Nagy have a poor relationship with head coach Bret Bielema?
There is no evidence that shows these are questions that need to be asked.
Bielema constantly praised Nagy for his hard work and dedication to the team. The senior played three positions for Bielema (guard, center and tight end) and did what he could to get on the field.
His performance against Iowa, when he replaced the injured Konz, drew tons of praise. “Billy Nagy pops in, takes off the tight end jersey number and steps in there. Unbelievable, selfless act to give us that win,” Bielema said.
Here’s what Nagy had to say after the 31-30 victory: “That’s my role, and I’m doing whatever I can to help the team win.”
But that’s not the only questionable perspective I found.
Here’s what a scout said about Tolzien to the Journal Sentinel:
“He will be a third and smarter than the starting quarterback. He manages the game. He can’t win a championship for you. He couldn’t bring them back against TCU. He’s just not gifted enough to do it.”
Everyone agrees Tolzien is probably destined to hold a clipboard in the NFL. He doesn’t have ideal measurables or arm strength, but he’d be a reliable backup quarterback — a guy who won’t make costly mistakes and who’ll know the offense perfectly. No problem with that sentiment.
But it’s not fair to say Tolzien can’t win a championship because he couldn’t bring the Badgers back against TCU.
You’re going to discount Tolzien because Horned Frogs’ linebacker Tank Carder made an incredible individual play to knock Tolzien’s game-tying 2-point try down? If Carder loses his footing, gets pancaked by the UW O-line and Tolzien completes that pass, does that give him a higher NFL grade?
Point to his mechanics or question his arm strength if you want, but Tolzien proved he could win the Badgers a game with his arm.
UW’s running game was so good last year, Tolzien rarely needed to sling the ball around and engineer a comeback.
But in that same game in Iowa City where Nagy impressed, Tolzien led a game-winning, 15-play touchdown drive. UW went with an empty backfield, shotgun formation and Tolzien delivered against the Hawkeyes at a point in the season when they still cared enough to try.
Takes a pretty gifted signal caller to pull that off.
Sure, Tolzien and Nagy aren’t perfect.
Neither are the scouts.
Max is a senior majoring in journalism. Think Tolzien and Nagy will be prove the doubters wrong? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.